When Technology crosses the line

Those of you that know me understand my quest for the latest and greatest gadgets.  New technology always excites me.  I always have to be the first to have the coolest new product or gizmo. But, even I have seen technology go too far.  I would like to point out several devices that, in my opinion, have little or no use or have just gone too far

First on my list is the automatic car wash, commonly referred to as an E-wash.  Last weekend I pulled into a new E-wash and was greeted by a machine.

This is how the conversation went:

E-wash: “Good afternoon. How can I help you today?”

Me:   “I would like my car washed.”

E-wash:  “Yes we can provide a Hot Wax”.

Me:  “I want a simple car wash.”

E-wash:  “Yes we can add an underbody wash.

Me:   “I just want a f____n’ car wash.

E-wash:  Thank you and have a nice day that will be $37.00

I agree, technology has improved our life in many fields including  medicine, finance and science but I don’t think I want my car wash to be included on that list.  I enjoy being greeted by a person. I enjoy getting out of the car and watching it go through the tunnel and I have great respect for the half dozen folks who are there drying and wiping the car down after the car comes through the system.   To me, a car wash is an American Icon, right up there with baseball, hotdogs and apple pie.    Trying to reason with a machine to wash my car was not an enjoyable experience that I will go through again.  I would rather wash the car myself.

Next on my list are public restrooms.   I believe somewhere in the Constitution or in the Declaration of Independence there has to be a line that states, as Americans we have the right to flush a toilet wash  and dry our hands when we want.  I can’t imagine our forefathers envisioned that toilets would flush themselves and sinks would provide only seconds of water and paper towels were distributed in matchbox size pieces.  There is nothing more annoying than having a toilet flush when you’re not ready for it to flush, I’m perfectly capable of turning the lever when I’m done, I can only imagine what the guy in the next stall is thinking when my toilet flushes ten times consecutively.   When it comes to washing my hands, is it really necessary to have the water delivered in 5 second intervals?  It’s not that complicated to turn a faucet on and off.  As for paper towels, you can take those sensors and put those through the car E-wash, they are the biggest waste of time I have ever seen!

Another biggy on my list is Cable TV.   My cable bill is like having a second mortgage. The rent on my first apartment in 1980 was less than my cable bill.  I have over 400 channels and every possible option, including DVR, On Demand, and all the premium channels.  The other night I sat down to watch TV and there was nothing on. Go Figure!  I grew up with a zenith TV with six channels (2, 4, 5, 7, 9 and 11) and a dial. And there was always something amazing to watch.   Can someone tell me how we went from Gilligan’s Island to Survivor? Ginger and Maryann, where have you gone?   Reality TV was as simple as “Family Feud.”

Last but not least on my technical wonders list is airport security.  Each time I fly somewhere I’m amazed at all the new devices and gadgets that make us feel dehumanized and detest flying that much more. What makes it even more ridiculous is no matter what new gadget is added, such as x ray machines or scanners; items still get through that can potentially ruin your day.  Here’s a novel idea, how about no carry on at all.  Period. That’s it. No questions asked.  Don’t like it; don’t fly.  Consider all the money that would be saved on security, and  then maybe the airlines can give us back free movies and food to enjoy (I’d be happy with a bag of pretzels). Hey, maybe you can even have a conversation with the person next to you.

I’m all for technology when it makes our lives more enjoyable and productive, but there comes a point where it can become just over the top. Reading this article online with your electronic reader, now how cool is that?

Published in: on May 24, 2012 at 4:49 pm  Comments (1)  
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Pinball Machines and Water Buffalos

What in the world could these two items have in common?  They are as far apart in similarity as Democrats and Republicans (lets save that for another blog).  Why are these items of interest? Believe it or not, we can learn so much from these two objects.  Let’s take a look at the brief history of each.    When I’m done you might be thinking about a new career path.

For those of you that can remember the first coin-operated pinball machines were invented in 1931. They became popular very quickly and really grew in popularity after World War II. The ten year period of 1948-58 is referred to by some as the “Golden Age of Pinball”. Once video games emerged onto the scene; the popularity of the pinball machine declined.  By the late 1980’s the classic pinball machine, as we know it, was no longer even being manufactured.  The classic pinball machine has been replaced by video machines that are more electronically progressive, with video screens and computer technology.

Amazingly, “Classic Pinball” has become almost as popular as it was back in the day. It has become an “in” item with high-profile celebrities, baby boomers, business executives and families. They have become a fixture on many TV shows, commercials, movie sets and many magazine shoots. Perhaps it’s due to the nostalgia factor or the advent of personal home game rooms. Or maybe the realization that an individual can now easily purchase a used pinball machine, or  even the fact that playing a few good games of pinball after a hard day’s work can be a tremendous stress-reliever!

Now the Water Buffalo, I’m pretty certain, has been around much longer than a pinball machine. For hundreds of years, the water buffalo has been used in the fields to pull plows and help in harvesting tasks.  Around the mid 1980’s, about same time as the demise of classic pinball, the water buffalo began to be replaced with industrial farm tractors. They seemed to be more efficient.

Now let’s move to the present time. Low and behold, you have just become the proud owner of a classic pinball machine and a water buffalo.  Now how cool is that?!  There seems to be one slight problem though and it apparently is a big one.

You go to use your pinball machine for the first time and guess what, it’s broken.  So you go outside and try to plow your field with your new water buffalo and yes, you guessed it, the water buffalo has absolutely no clue what to do.  What do you do at the point?   Can you go call the neighborhood pinball machine repairman or locate a water buffalo trainer?  I don’t think so.  You want to know why? Few if any exist anymore!

It seems as new technologies develop the need for the old ways of doing things diminishes. With it so does the means to keep them working and performing.   This would be ok, but what happens when we find the old ways are better. Apparently, the farmers realized that the tractors weren’t exactly what they bargained for. They were costly to maintain and fuel is expensive. They would get stuck in places that a water buffalo would not, and my favorite, the tractors couldn’t provide the natural fertilizer that the water buffalo did.  Do I need to draw a picture?!

Now with all the high tech gadgets and video games out there, why would anyone want a classic pinball machine?  Because it’s fun!  It brings you back to a time when life was simple.  Nothing beats a great game of classic pinball.

So where have all the pinball repairmen and water buffalo trainers gone?  Well when the need for them disappeared so did they.  As for the pinball machines many “tinkerers” or “MacGyvers”” out there are finding new careers that they never dreamed they would be doing years ago.   Recently, in parts of Asia they have opened Water Buffalo training schools; apparently they have located some old timers that are now teaching the new generations “the ways of the water buffalo”.  From what I’ve read, teaching an 800 pound water buffalo to make a left turn is no easy task. It’s not as easy as flipping your blinker on.

So as you can see the Pinball machine and the water buffalo have quite a bit in common. Old methods have found a place in the land of new technology.  I have a strange feeling we will be seeing a lot of this in the coming future.  So hold on to your knowledge of the past, you never know when it will be needed.  If you’re thinking of a career, imagine the possibilities if you could train water buffalos and fix pinball machines.

Published in: on October 7, 2010 at 7:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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When Technology “doesn’t cut the Mustard”

The other night it was late  and I was hungry.  I pulled into a national chain store deli. I went to the sandwich section of the store.  The only people in the entire building were me and the three employees behind the deli counter.  I nicely asked for a sandwich.  The one employee looked at me and said you have to use the “Machine”.  I asked him to explain.  He told me to turn around and see the machine that you punch in what you want to eat.  I replied, “Gee that’s really great, but its late, theres nobody here, there are three of you behind the counter and I really just want a simple sandwich.  His reply “we can’t do that”.  I said “what do you mean its really easy, you take  a piece of bread, a slice of turkey a piece of cheese a little mayo another piece of bread, put it on top, wrap it up and I’m on my way.  His reply “we’re not allowed to do that”.

Wow, its 1:00AM in the morning and three people behind the deli with absolutely nothing else to do will not make  a sandwich that would of taken less time to do then actually use the machine or even have the conversation on why to use the machine in the first place.   Now how interesting is that?

Now don’t get me wrong here. I’m a really big fan of technology when it can be used for practical purposes and make our life easier.  This caused me to think of all the things where technology has been put to use when maybe it wasn’t such a good idea.

For example, lets take a look at a  Public bathroom.  Now I don’t know about the rest of you, but after I do my business, I get a great sense of satisfaction in actually flushing the toilet.  I’m not keen on the idea of an automated sensor doing it for me.   There have been times, when I’m not quite done yet and the darn thing flushes.  Feels like I’m getting sucked in.  This is one thing I say no to. Please bring back the handle.  Now if this isn’t humiliating enough after you been almost sucked down the bowl, you go to wash your hand and the knobs are gone on the sink.  We have to magically wave our hands across the sink to get enough water for a flea to take a shower. Oh how nice is that?   Now the topper, you go to dry your hands and again you wave your dripping wet hands across a high tech sensor and out comes a piece of a paper towel large enough to use as  a blanket for the flea that just took a shower.  Can I please have the bathroom not so technical!

Another example is the automated system you get when your cable TV is out.  Does this sound familiar?  “Thank you for calling ____, your call is important to us. To better serve you please follow the prompts. For English Press 1, for Spanish press 2, …… for Swahili press 926.  After about 20 minutes of prompting you finally get the recording. “‘Im sorry our call center is overloaded now with millions of complaints just like yours, please try again some other time, oh and have  a nice day and remember to pay your bill on time or will will cut you off so fast you won’t know what hit you.”  For most of us the cable going out and actually getting to get a live person to speak to you in your native language requires an entire night of dedication, perseverance  and at least two Martini’s

As for the sandwich, I decided to go home open the cabinet, choose a box of cereal, pour into a bowl, add milk and eat.  This required no machine, no technology, no prompting, no auto flushing,  and no conversation. Guess what!  It worked and it was simple and it was good.

Published in: on May 27, 2010 at 2:47 pm  Comments (1)  
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